One of the projects that my 16 year-old daughter, Jennifer, had on her to-do list for the summer – in addition to sleeping in – was learning to sew. She has always been good at crafts and many of the items she has seen on Etsy inspired her to try to make a cute skirt or sundress for herself.
I was happy to have the opportunity to teach her because I have fond memories of spending summers sewing clothes that I was going to proudly wear to school in the fall. I would redo the topstitching on a pocket until I deemed it perfect, all the while imagining the praise I would hear from my peers when they complimented me on something I was wearing. I could hear them say in amazement, “You made that! Cool!”
Sewing also represented a special bond I had when I was a teenager with a spinster aunt who lived in Fresno. The summer before I started high school, my parents arranged for me to fly from Salt Lake to Fresno by myself so I could spend two weeks sewing with Malno (her parents were very German). I felt so cool to be flying alone and I can still remember exactly what I wore on the plane: a knit dress that was inspired by fashions in the 1920s and a long string of faux pearls. You see, the movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie” that had come out a few years earlier had popularized the some of the flapper styles.
Once I arrived in Fresno, Malno devoted all her time to me. No wonder I have such fond memories. Our days were spent shopping for fabric and sewing. Odd as this sounds, Malno had a Ph.D. in home economics from Brigham Young University. So in the couple of weeks that I spent under her tutelage; I produced some very stylish outfits.
The sewing machine that Jennifer was going to learn to sew on is the same machine that Malno told my father to buy for me almost 40 years ago. My Bernina is like the Incredible Hulk of sewing machines. It’s big and heavy and clunky and it still sews great. It reminds me of a diesel Mercedes from the 1960s which in fact, was the kind of car that Malno drove. Not pretty but built to last. Gotta love that German engineering.
When it came to choosing what to sew for her first project, Jennifer had the good sense to choose something for which the fit of the garment wouldn’t be a deal breaker for wearing it. She selected an apron pattern and some cute broadcloth fabric that had a vertical pattern which made cutting and sewing a straight line an easier process.
As I showed her how to follow the instructions for laying out the pattern pieces and getting them aligned with the grain of the fabric, she commented on how old school this all seemed. I had to agree that sewing really is a low-tech process. The cutting and seaming that creates a three dimensional garment from a flat piece of fabric hasn’t changed since cavemen starting putting skins together.
I pointed out to Jennifer that sewing, like any craft, is as much about enjoying the process of whatever you’re making as it is about having a finished product. In a time when we’re used to instant everything, it definitely requires slowing down and moving methodically from one step to the next. Whether sewing as a pastime catches fire with Jennifer is yet to be seen but I was reminded of the gratification I used to get from it. Bring on the next project.